The state of Florida is defying orders from the federal government to cease a voter purging program it says it’s not conducting. Topping that, the state is seeking access to a federal database it already has access to. Still worse, Florida is saying that the Department of Justice’s enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act actually denies people their right to vote. A love bizarre.
The confusion began when Governor Rick Scott’s administration introduced a program to the public last month that purports to identify “non-citizens” who might be registered to vote. Last week, the Department of Justice asked Governor Scott’s Secretary of State Kent Detzner to stop the program because it appears to violate federal civil rights and voter registration laws and because dozens of citizens eligible to vote kept turning up on the state’s “non-citizen” list. Scott and Detzner responded yesterday that they weren’t stopping anything, and that it’s the federal government who is violating laws by not granting Florida access to an immigration database so they can find more “non-citizens.”
The standoff has been all heat and no light around a poorly designed and poorly timed voter-purging scheme. Meanwhile, the votes of thousands of Floridian US citizens are threatened because of a pure hunch from Governor Scott that aliens might be voting.
The whole mess started last month, or at least that’s when Detzner announced a “new Initiative to remove non-citizens from Florida voter rolls.” But the real genesis for the program was early 2011, right after Governor Scott took office, when he had a side chat with his then–State Secretary Kurt Browning about “non-citizens” voting. Neither the governor nor Browning had any evidence of this actually being a problem, but Browning told Scott it was an issue anyway. So started a review of the state’s voter registration lists by state election officials.
So when did the program actually start? Well, it depends on who’s asking the question. A FAQ from Governor Scott’s website, posted yesterday, reads, “The process to remove non-US citizens from Florida’s voter database actually began in Spring 2011.” It wasn’t publicized until May 9, though, which is when the state sent out letters to county supervisors of elections, who were directed to forward the letters to about 2,600 people the state suspected were “non-citizens.”